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The basics: What to know if you’re considering hearing aids

Getting hearing aids can be a big step for many people. In fact, many people wait several years after they first notice they have difficulty hearing before considering hearing aids.

If you are thinking about trying hearing aids to help manage your hearing loss, there are many factors to consider in choosing the best option for you, including your degree of hearing loss, style of hearing aids and cost.  Here are the basics before you begin:

How do they work?
Hearing aids work by amplifying sound. The basic features of a hearing aid are a microphone to pick up sound, circuitry that amplifies the sound, a loud speaker or receiver that delivers sound into the ear canal and a battery.

Hearing aid styles
Hearing aids differ in their design, technology and types of features. There are four main designs for hearing aids:

  • Behind-the-ear aids (BTE) are most often used for children because they are sturdy and easy to clean. BTEs contain a mold that goes in the ear to direct the sound, but the electronic components are encased in plastic behind the ear.
  • Mini BTE aids, often called on-the-ear aids, are often favored by adults because they provide less of a “plugged up” feeling and are also less noticeable than other aids for people who are concerned about how the hearing aids look.
  • In-the-ear (ITE) aids fit completely in the outer ear, making them relatively easy to handle for many people.
  • In-the-ear-canal aids (ITC) and completely in the canal (CIC) aids are favored because they are discreet and can provide better hearing help than others. However, some people have trouble handling them because they are so small.

Hearing aid technology
Today, digital hearing aids are most often used – old analog aids are becoming increasingly less common because they aren’t as clear. Digital hearing aids offer several features to use depending on the environment you need them in, and they offer more flexible options.

The newest hearing aids have a directional microphone, which allows you to capture sounds just in front of you for a face-to-face conversation to make it easier to converse without picking up background noise. Most also have a T-Coil – a switch to use when you’re talking on the phone or in looped places such as a theater. T-Coils also work directly with assistive devices, such as a captioned  telephone, to create an optimal hearing situation. Others have direct audio input so the hearing aid wearer can plug in directly to the TV or an assistive listening device. Finally, most hearing aids today have feedback suppression, which stops the squeals and other FM interference caused by getting too close to a telephone and other devices.

Getting them just right
Unlike going to the eye doctor for one eye test and then getting a prescription for eyeglasses or contacts, hearing aids often require a few visits to the audiologist for adjustments as everyone’s hearing and sensitivity to particular sounds is different.

Whether you decide to choose hearing aids or to just manage your hearing loss with other assistive listening devices like a captioned telephone, there are good hearing loss solutions out there for everyone. Just do a little research and talk with your hearing healthcare professional to decide what’s best for you.